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University Photo Class Teaches More Than Just Point and Shoot

New Course Takes Aim at Camera Phone Composition, Ethics

March 3, 2011

University Photo Class Teaches More Than Just Point and Shoot

by Alexis Mattera

Cameras are standard features on most cell phones nowadays and for every user that emulates Ansel Adams, there’s another that channels Peeping Tom. Though this outlook has caused more than a few scandals, many people still play fast and loose with the shutter button...and associated photo-sharing apps like Flickr and Facebook that make posting images all too simple. When will they learn? Sooner than later if Immaculata University has its way.

The suburban Philadelphia school is offering a new cell phone photography class focusing on both the quality of the images and the ethical responsibilities that come with taking and publishing them. Communications professor Sean Flannery and professional photographer Hunter Martin will split teaching duties; the latter will handle topics like composition, lighting and editing while the former will cover voyeurism, ethics, citizen journalism and the difference between public and private spaces in hopes that students will realize "the full gravity of what's at their fingertips and the power they can have."

The idea for such a college course isn’t novel – NYU has been offering a cell phone video class every fall since 2009 – but Immaculata officials believe their offering is different because of its ethical angle. "I think it's part of our responsibility ... to teach kids how to use this tool," Flannery said, adding that it's no different from teaching proper use of a video camera in a broadcast news class.

If there are any Immaculata students reading that are enrolled in this class, we’d love to hear about your experiences thus far. Other students, would you take a class like this if your school offered it? Why or why not?


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The Great Homework Debate

Cornell Could Ban Surprise Assignments to Improve Mental Health

March 4, 2011

The Great Homework Debate

by Alexis Mattera

You have just one class left until a full week off from textbooks, Scantron sheets and yawn-loathing instructors. Then, it happens: Your professor goes off the syllabus and announces a new project – a lengthy research paper, to be precise – to be handed in during the first class after break. That thought bubble above your head filled with notions of sleeping until noon and emptying your DVR goes kerplewy and your waning stress level takes a leap into finals week territory. Ouch...but that scenario may no longer occur at Cornell because of a call for change from the faculty. Is it the right choice?

Cornell’s Faculty Senate is expected to vote this month on a resolution that would "strongly discourage" surprise assignments to improve the mental health of students. The resolution, said theatre professor and chair of the Faculty Senate's education-policies committee Bruce A. Levitt, would encourage faculty members to stick to their syllabi so students can better pace themselves. "The idea was not to forbid homework over break, but to make academic work over break the choice of the student," Levitt explained.

If my school had implemented this kind of resolution when I was an undergrad, I probably would have rejoiced but having been a member of a deadline-driven profession for almost six years now, it would have been a detriment. With the advent of cell phones and on-the-go e-mail access, many bosses expect their employees to remain in constant contact even when they are off the clock – something students may not realize until they begin their first job out of college. I’m not saying students shouldn’t be able to enjoy their nights, weekends and breaks but they should be aware that after college, the work needs to get done regardless of the hour.


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Controversy: Scholarships for White Men Only

by Suada Kolovic

A non-profit group in Texas is offering college scholarships to a demographic it says has fewer scholarship opportunities than other groups – white males.

The group, called the Former Majority Association for Equality (FMAFE), was formed by Texas State University student Colby Bohannan. He’s an Iraq war veteran who decided to return to school but said he had trouble finding college scholarships for which he qualified. "I felt excluded," Bohannon told The Austin American-Statesman. "If everyone else can find scholarships, why are we [white males] left out?" So Bohannon and some friends founded FMAFE group, which plans to provide as many as five $500 scholarships to deserving white men – at least 25 percent Caucasian to be exact – who have at least a 3.0 grade point average and substantiate financial need. "We know that we're going to be receiving some vicious attacks, from people claiming that we are racists, or promoting some bigotry-filled agenda," he said. But Bohannan reiterates that the group’s aim is to help students and not jump on any political agenda or bandwagon.

The group was formally incorporated in Texas last March, and is currently accepting applications for Fall 2011. "We're not looking for blond-haired, blue-eyed, stereotypical white males," he said. "My feeling is that if you can say you're 25 percent Caucasian, you're Caucasian enough for us."


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Arizona State Professor: ‘I’m a recovering cheater’

by Suada Kolovic

Academic dishonestly has become a rampant problem in schools across the country but the focus is usually on students, not their teachers. Are educators truly exempt from cheating? Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, an associated professor at Arizona State University, had a personal quest in finding out how common cheating is among teachers. Why? She admits she’s cheated as a teacher.

Amrein-Beardsley and Arizona State colleagues David Berliner and Sharon Rideau created an online survey – “Cheating in the First, Second and Third Degree” – to measure what types of cheating take place and to what degree cheating occurs among Arizona teachers. With responses from more than 3,000 educators, the data revealed that while cheating is common, much of it was either unintentional or what many teachers don’t consider cheating, such as leaving up wall displays of multiplications tables during tests. According the USA Today article, Amrein-Beardsley said that as a teacher, she routinely took questions from old tests and made study guides by changing numbers and details from existing outlines...which technically is cheating. "I had no clue it was wrong. I thought I was doing great," she said. Most states have regulations in place that affirms teachers are never allowed to see test questions and that only retired or practice questions are supposed to be used to prepare students.

Now, does this seem like an overly critical analysis of what cheating means? Do you think a teacher is being academically dishonest if they create a new math problem with a new answer but use the same technique to solve it as an older problem? How do you define cheating? Let us know what you think.


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USC Frat Lacks Class

Offensive Mass E-Mail Under Investigation

March 11, 2011

USC Frat Lacks Class

by Suada Kolovic

The University of Southern California recently received the largest donation in their school’s history – a staggering $200 million. Only days later, the spotlight is back on the university but this time the news isn’t good.

According to USC’s Daily Trojan, the Kappa Sigma Fraternity is facing an investigation after an offensive e-mail addressed to members was made public. The letter, designed to be the first in a weekly series called the Gullet Report, aimed to “strengthen brotherhood.” Throughout the rambling four-page e-mail the author expresses his opinions of women: “I will refer to females as ‘targets.’ They aren’t actual people like us men. Consequently, giving them a certain name or distinction is pointless.” He goes on to refer to unattractive women as “filth,” provided code names for women according to their nationality and warned his brothers to steer clear of “middle-eastern targets.”

Kappa Sigma Fraternity’s executive director Mitchell Wilson said in statement, “The content [of the e-mail] is contrary to everything [Kappa Sigma stands] for and we are not going to allow individuals to attempt to tarnish our name in any form or fashion.” Wilson added the fraternity was doing their best to identify the author to hold that person accountable (perhaps using research from this study). The author will likely face expulsion from the university.

While there are plenty of upstanding Greek organizations, the stereotypical fraternity lifestyle is one promoting excess in booze and babes under the guise of promoting brotherhood and academic excellence. What do you think of the latest scandal to rock a nationally-recognized fraternity?


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UCLA Fires Back via YouTube

Administration "Appalled" By Student Rant, Posts Response in Same Forum

March 18, 2011

UCLA Fires Back via YouTube

by Alexis Mattera

One week ago, Alexandra Wallace took to YouTube to post her thoughts on her Asian UCLA classmates in the library. You can probably guess what happened after that – the junior’s rant went viral (viewed nearly 4.5 million times...and parodied), she was called a racist for her remarks and she backtracked with an apology in the Daily Bruin – but the school’s reaction was less than typical: Administrators posted a response on the same site.

Chancellor Gene D. Block called the debacle a "sad day at UCLA" and talked about how the school was "appalled by the thoughtless and hurtful comments" in the clip posted on Monday. Despite UCLA's disappointment in Wallace, disciplinary action has not yet been taken because the school is focusing its efforts on ensuring Wallace’s safety, as she has received numerous threatening e-mails, which are being investigated by the campus police department. Campus spokesman Phil Hampton hopes the incident will serve as a lesson about the impact of posting material to public websites. "Once you put information out there, it’s difficult to take it back," he said.

I personally applaud UCLA’s course of action thus far because the video was produced using the school’s own broadcast studio and released through channels (YouTube, Facebook and the UCLA website) favored by and accessible to all students. "If it’s a response to something that was seen by people in a new-media format, it’s important that the response be made in a new-media format," Hampton said. I agree...do you?


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Student Resigns CU Diversity Post Over Blog Entries

by Suada Kolovic

For some, blogging provides an outlet for writers to share their personal insights of the world around them; for others, it’s a platform for venting their frustrations about the opposite sex…under the safety of a pseudonym, of course. For Matthew Cucchiaro, the University of Colorado Student Government diversity director, it was the latter.

The Daily Camera reports Cucchiaro originally posted the content in question under a pseudonym in 2009 and although he says the blog entitled, “Today’s Stupid Human Beings: Women,” was “clearly satirical,” he resigned from his position on March 4. His blogs came to light courtesy of an anonymous source who sent copies to the dean of students and CU Student Government’s vice president of external affairs, Allison Foley, said although Cucchiaro didn’t break any rules, he agreed to resign.

A week after resigning, Cucchiaro has since reposted the blog on women including one that said “women are not as smart as men” to stupidhumanbeings.com. Do you think it’s fair that Cucchiaro was penalized for writing something years ago? Did his reaction – reposting the blog – justify the school’s actions? This story is anything but uncommon lately what with the UCLA girl and the controversy surrounding the USC frat still trending weeks later. The moral of the story: think before you post.


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Robbed Victim Posts Video of Laptop Thief on YouTube

by Suada Kolovic

Getting a computer stolen could be a nightmare for a college student but for one tech-savvy Bentley University freshman, it became a viral dream come true.

Mark Bao discovered his MacBook Air had been stolen but was still able to access several of his hard drives and Web-Browsing history via an online backup service. What did he find? A thief with dance fever. In addition to several pictures of the thief, Mr. Bao found recordings of him dancing, which Mr. Bao took full advantage of and posted on YouTube that same night. “I thought it was hilarious,” Mr. Bao said of the evidence. “I couldn’t believe he didn’t reformat the hard drive or cover up his tracks. It was in plain sight.”

After getting a well-deserved chuckle at the expense of his robber, Mr. Bao notified Bentley’s campus police department and early Tuesday morning, the laptop was turned in to the campus police station. Though the alleged thief emailed Mr. Bao to apologize and requested that the video,“Don’t steal computers belonging to people who know how to use computers,” be taken down, he didn’t oblige. Mr. Bao says he doesn’t plan to press charges and intends to sell the stolen laptop – since he replaced his – and donate the proceeds to support the relief efforts in Japan. Do you think the thief had what was coming to him? Should Mr. Bao take the video down now that his laptop has been returned? Let us know what you think.


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Shooting Hoax at Ramapo College

Man Faked Shooting Attack in Effort to Get Ex-Girlfriend to Pay Up

March 25, 2011

Shooting Hoax at Ramapo College

by Suada Kolovic

We’ve all gone through breakups before, but what do you do if an ex owes you $1,000? The average Joe would probably take their case to small claims court but for one West Orange, N.J. man, that course of action just didn’t have enough pizzazz for him. Instead, he pretended he had been shot and was being held for ransom in hopes that his former flame would come to his rescue...without ever contacting the authorities. Yup, that’s definitely the wrong way to get an ex to pay up.

Twenty-three-year-old Gil D. Jaffe was arrested after he allegedly claimed he was shot at or near Ramapo College in efforts to elicit $1,000 from his ex-girlfriend, authorities said. Jaffe and Leonid Shtaygrad, 21, are accused of running the hoax. According to police, a call was placed to Jaffe’s ex-girlfriend, a 22-year-old former Ramapo student, Wednesday night saying he was shot twice in the shoulder because he owed the shooter money. Shtaygrad, posing as the shooter, then allegedly got on the phone confirming the story and told Jaffe’s ex to send ransom money. The woman called police, prompting a campus lockdown, and Mahwah officers were eventually able to identify Jaffe’s location by tracking his cell phone in West Orange. When police arrived, they found Jaffe had no gunshot wounds then arrested him for violating a restraining order by contacting his ex.

In court Thursday, Jaffe was charged with violating a restraining order, false public alarm and attempted theft by deception. His accomplice, Shtaygrad, was charged with creating false public alarm and conspiracy to attempted theft by deception. Money allegedly owed to you by your ex: $1,000. Bail: $25,000. Proving on a national level that you aren’t boyfriend material: Priceless.


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GOP Congressman: Pell Grants are Becoming ‘The Welfare of the 21st Century’

by Suada Kolovic

The GOP is no stranger to controversy and Friday’s interview with Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) was no exception. In a radio interview with Blog Talk Radio, Rehberg went on a rant in which he compared the Pell Grant Program – the nation’s largest financial aid program – to the likes of welfare and denounced the fact that students who receive them don’t have a graduation requirement. "You can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people that don’t have to graduate from college.” Rehberg added under the federal program, a student could "go to school for nine years on Pell Grants and you don’t even have to get a degree."

Jason Delisle, director of the Federal Education Budget Project at the New America Foundation, took issue with Rehberg's comments. "I don't know if it's a fair characterization that someone has decided to go through the hoops of applying to college, getting enrolled and showing up every day because it's the welfare lifestyle," he said. "If the issue is people are being lazy and living off the dole, so to speak, I don't think their first step is to enroll in college."

For the 2012 fiscal year, the Pell Grant program is set to exceed $40 billion. Some lawmakers have been exploring ways to reduce the cost of the programs by lowering the maximum grant size – which is currently $5,550 – or restricting eligibility. In Montana, Rehberg recently voted for the House GOP budget resolution, which would reduce the maximum Pell Grant to $4,705 and narrow the eligibility of applicants. If you’re eligible for Pell Grants, what do you think? Are Rehberg’s assumptions out of line?


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